Donna Remmes '20, working in New Orleans following Hurricane Ida.
Donna Remmes '20, working in New Orleans following Hurricane Ida.

When Donna Remmes ’20, signed up with Project Hope, a nonprofit organization that provides medical assistance during disaster and crisis events, she initially thought she would be working in the Boston and Rhode Island area.

She never expected to find herself with a team of medical professionals flying to New Orleans just days after Hurricane Ida ripped through the area.

“I never imagined I would be doing something like this, but it was the most important thing I have ever done as a nurse,” said Remmes, who graduated from the adult geriatric nurse practitioner (AGNP) program in December. “I was totally out of my comfort zone.”

Hurricane Ida made landfall as a Category Four storm in Louisiana on August 29, claimed the lives of more than 100 people across the country, and caused significant flooding and damage from New Orleans to New England. Recovery and response work is ongoing.

Remmes expected to be working in a community health capacity during her eight days in New Orleans; performing wellness checks and getting folks situated in clinics. But the need for medical help was so great in the area, Remmes found herself performing myriad of tasks from helping evacuate buildings to providing provide emergency medical and psych care to wellness checks.

Remmes and her team slept in a public health department building because it was the only space available.

“You are trying to save lives,” said Remmes. “I came in contact with every possible person you could think of: children, elderly, homeless, individuals with mental illness.”

Remmes earned her nursing degree in 1994 and has worked in a cardio thoracic and telemetry step down unit, as a school nurse, and home health nurse. She began the AGNP program at Regis in 2018. Once she completed the program she sought greater opportunities to use her nurse practitioner skills. Her first experience providing care in a crisis situation abroad was working at a free clinic in Honduras earlier this year.

“My friends live there and they kept telling me how bad it was and how much help they needed,” Remmes explained. From there she signed on with Project Hope and said she will go wherever she is needed.

And whether working in a hospital in Boston or on the ground in a disaster zone, Remmes said her advice to nursing students is exactly the same. “Agree to do whatever you can,” she said. “Nothing should be beneath you.”